“Quickly now! Okay, you, Matt, go!” Adam exclaimed.
I had less than a minute to come up with a problem for a book. Any problem. I was flustered. I was nervous. It was wonderful. And in less than ten minutes Adam Gidwitz, the acclaimed author who had come to my middle grade literature seminar, had made everyone in my class outline a novel.
Adam’s writing career began when he decided, like many writers, to write a book (though the inspiration for his first book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, he said came to him when he was a substitute librarian in an elementary school one day and was asked to read anything he wanted—Adam chose the original Grimm stories). He told my class all about the actual bloodiness of the original Grimm stories, which have since been defanged. Though, as he recalled, whenever he tells children the original tales, rarely are they squeamish.
I blurted out a jumble of a problem. He corrected it. He called on my other classmates to say their recently created story problems and he critiqued and suggested improvements to them too. His energetic personality electrified the room.
Next: our problems needed adventure. “It’s the guts of your story,” he said. “Make it clear, make it swift, make your protagonist gradually succeed in his tasks, and then do the worst thing you can to him!”
We laughed, we fretted, we tortured our poor characters, and mourned their lot ...
“But all is not lost!” he exclaimed. “The climax of your book has arrived! How is your hero going to triumph?”
I had no idea. But Adam did.
Adam Gidwitz was born in San Francisco, grew up in Baltimore, attended Columbia University where he studied English Literature, and eventually became a teacher at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn. His award-winning New York Times bestselling books include A Tale Dark and Grimm, In A Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion. He now writes full-time. He can be contacted through his website: adamgidwitz.com
Matthew Futterman is a first year Writing for Children MFA candidate at The New School. He is a native New Yorker and holds a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology.